Coming Clean to Impress Buyers

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Home sellers: Prepare to air your dirty little secrets.

Unless you start deep cleaning before listing, including dumping those half-empty jars lining the back of your refrigerator, you run the risk of turning off buyers.

Real estate agents, though, are divided on exactly what degree prospective buyers put a home to a white glove test.

“A buyer may open all the kitchen appliances and kitchen drawers,” says Katherine Salyi, associate broker with Sotheby’s International Realty, New York City.

It’s during open houses rather than private tours with their agent that buyers will tend to snoop, adds Sylva Khayalian, Redfin agent in Los Angeles.

But Mark Zipper, owner of RE/MAX Edge, Chicago, finds that “buyers rarely look inside refrigerators” and “don’t usually open cabinets and ovens.”

Still, a good agent should tell sellers if poor housekeeping, such as dirty windows and spots on the carpet, taints a first impression Zipperer says.

And while if supplies of homes on the market, “I urge buyers to be careful about how critical they are,” Zipperer says. Still, in any market “it is a risk to present a dirty home.

It may be most important to impress buyers before they walk in, adds Zipperer, who often recommends that sellers spend about $250 for professional cleaning before the photographer arrives to shoot videos and pictures that land on ads.

“A good deep cleaning right before the photos are taken is the highest priority,” adds Khayalian of Redfin, which recently announced a “concierge service” that will covers the cost of professional cleaning and other services for sellers who pay a higher commission to the nationwide brokerage firm.

“The first open house is usually within a week of the photo shoot,” adds Khayalian, with most sellers able to maintain the pristine look for that long.

Once sold, cleanliness still matters, as most contracts call for a home to be “broom clean” when it transfers to a new owners. The typical violation, says Zipperer is “sellers leave something like an old TV or chair and buyers will say, ‘No, I want it out.’”

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